Is The Park Hyatt Maldives a Good Use of Points?

My wife and I have our tenth anniversary coming up next year so I’ve been working on a big trip to celebrate. The two of us decided the Maldives would be a great destination.

The Park Hyatt in the Maldives is clearly an aspirational property for many miles and points geeks. In fact, the three Boarding Area blogs I read most often (OMAAT, View from the Wing and Mommy Points) have all done at least one review of the property.

I obviously love using miles and points to make a trip more affordable. But the reviews I’ve read of the Park Hyatt have left me unconvinced this property is a wise use of points. As I see it, there are three major downsides to staying at the Park Hyatt.

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1. Points and Upgrade Costs at the Park Hyatt

As many of you might know, the Park Hyatt has bounced around Hyatt’s categories a few times lately. But, it’s currently a category 6 property requiring 25,000 points per night.

This gets you into the base Park Villa, which Ben did a thorough review of earlier this year.

The hotel offers several upgrade options beyond the Park Villa. Ben’s post goes into more detail. But, the Reader’s Digest version is:

  • $250 per night for a plunge pool
  • $500 per night to be over the water
  • $750 per night to be over the water with a better view and more privacy

All of these costs are in addition to the 25,000 points per night. At Ben’s valuation of 1.4 cents per mile for Hyatt Gold Passport points, an overwater bungalow will run you $850 per night when you include the upgrade cost and the value of points being used.

Park-Hyatt-Maldives-21

2. The Park Hyatt’s Location

Let’s also consider the Park Hyatt’s location and the process to get there. The Park Hyatt describes their transfer as follows:

Domestic flights are arranged via Maldivian Airlines and waiting times may vary from min 1 hour to max 4 hours. The shortest flight from Male International Airport to Kooddoo Domestic Airport is approximately 1 hour and the longest flight approximately 1 hour 45 min due to “stop over” in Kadhdhoo Domestic Airport. A short speedboat journey of approximately 30-40 minutes will follow as the final stretch of your journey to our island.

At $510 per adult, the transfer is expensive and you have no control over your schedule since it’s handled completely by the Park Hyatt staff. For a five-night stay, this adds another $200 per night.

And even more important than the cost is the fact the transfer cuts into the amount of time spent relaxing and enjoying the resort.

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3. Cost of Dining

Diamonds and paid guests have breakfast included for free. I have platinum status with Hyatt so staying on points would mean spending $30 per person for breakfast. To be fair, the breakfasts are plentiful and get great reviews.

The rest of the meals and drinks aren’t cheap. And I think it’s completely reasonable they charge a premium considering how remote the property is. There are clearly real costs involved with getting ingredients to the island and preparing quality food.

Gary estimates the daily cost of food at about $130 per person per day for non-diamonds. He posted all the menus from his most recent trip and says there are ways to be more economical if cost is a concern. Mommy Points confirmed it would be easy to hit $160 per day as her review of the food options at the Park Hyatt suggests. And Ben told me $160 sounds about right but the cost is highly dependent on alcohol/beverage consumption.

For our purposes, let’s be conservative and stick with Gary’s $130 per person per day. So, tack on another $260 per day to our running total.

Park-Hyatt-Maldives-Breakfast-29

Adding It All Up

An overwater villa (not the special view ones) will run $850 including the value of the points. The transfer for two works out to $200 per night when you average it over a five night stay. And the conservative estimate for food and drinks is $260 per night for two people. So, a stay at the Park Hyatt Maldives would have cost us $1,310 per night all-in.

I didn’t expect a trip to the Maldives to be cheap. But, the more I considered the costs involved, the more I realized I needed to explore another option.

Another Resort Option

Thankfully, just as I was evaluating hotel options for the trip Wendy Perrin mentioned Gili Lankanfushi in a post about how to book the World’s Best Hotels. Gili had recently won TripAdvisor’s Best Hotel in the World Award for 2015.

GiliLankanfushiMaldives

I was pretty blown away the more I looked into reviews of Gili. It’s clear they earned the “Best” award for a reason. The 2,260 square feet villas are all overwater, the property has a more casual approach (No News, No Shoes is their motto) and it’s clear the staff love their jobs.

What stood out most was the $6,000 price quoted for an 8 night stay in May. At $750 per night, it’s an absolute steal. But, it gets even better because the rate also includes:

  • Breakfast and dinner
  • Complimentary transfers from Male
  • 30 minute spa treatment for two
  • $100 food and beverage credit

The food at Gili gets great reviews from travelers. And the resort is a quick 25-minute speedboat ride away from the main airport in Male. The fact we’d get to the resort quicker was a big plus.

For us, this all made booking Gili a no-brainer. We booked a five night stay next June. The rate for the shorter stay is a little more per night than the price mentioned above. But, it’s still clearly the better value to me and I can’t wait to write a review for you all next summer.

There Are Other Factors To Consider

It’s worth pointing out there are three big variables involved here that all factored into our decision to skip the Park Hyatt but could easily mean a different conclusion for you:

  1. Timing – The rates at Gili are seasonal. We had two windows that would work for the trip and one was roughly $1,200 more for the five night stay. We went with the cheaper option to travel in June. If you prefer to travel in high season, that could very well make a points stay at the Park Hyatt a more attractive value.
  2. Status – Only having platinum status with Hyatt factored into the cost of our food and made it unlikely we’d be upgraded to a villa on the beach with a plunge pool. If I was a diamond, it might have made the decision a little more difficult.
  3. Personal Preferences – Is the overwater villa an absolute must? Probably not. But, if we’re going to go all the way to the Maldives, we wanted to be over the water and that gave Gili a distinct advantage. You can also make your own determination about the proximity to the airport. Very few reviews of Gili have mentioned seeing planes from the resort. And Gary argues the difficulty getting to the Park Hyatt is one of the best features of the resort because it forces you to truly relax and be away from the real world. For us, the cheaper and faster transfer held the advantage. But, I see merit in Gary’s argument.

One final note of thanks to Summer at Mommy Points, Gary at View from the Wing and Ben here at OMAAT. They all quickly replied with very useful information that helped put this post together.

Comments

  1. I stayed at the Gili for my honeymoon in May 2014, using points actually (long story involving closure of the Conrad). You will not be disappointed!

  2. Are you bringing your little one? My wife and I were planning a Maldives trip this winter with our toddler, but got cold feet due to all the transfers/flying/hassle. Rethinking it for 2016 though. I am Diamond so it is more tempting.

  3. @EricB – The kids are staying at home for this trip. But, I’ve read great things in the TripAdvisor reviews about bringing kids to Gili. I haven’t read as many non-BoardingArea reviews of the Park Hyatt so I can’t say I’ve seen much about bringing kids there. For us, the transfer from MLE to the Park Hyatt after a long flight would definitely be pushing it for my girls.

  4. The boat transfer i just so much better than flying out again on the seaplane. There is no set schedule, plus they do not fly after dark so if you have a night flight you would have to leave the resort early. We chose to stay at Cocoa Island this past year and the did not regret it. We had a flight out at 10:30PM and left the resort at 7:30 PM. It was a great moonlit boatride back to the airport and not at all stressful.

    The chains may be alright for miles and point but the general consensus it seems is that there are so many better options in the Maldives.

  5. Be careful about the desire for an OW bungalow in the Maldives. The Indian Ocean water temps are significantly higher than in the Pacific, and when combined with the high heat conditions in the Maldives, the OW bungalow air con often cannot keep up with the high temps. This is reported as a big issue at almost all of the OW bungalows/villas at almost every property in the Maldives. As someone who wants definite working air con in high heat conditions, I would rather stay in a beach villa with pool at the PH or elsewhere, given the choice. Others who need good air con might do well to consider that, too, since the OW units are always the most in demand and concomitantly most expensive…

  6. Also, FWIW, the Hyatt Visa comes with 2 free nights at any Hyatt property worldwide for the time being (after $1000 spend in 3 months). If a couple each got the card and met that spend requirement, they would have the ability for 4 free nights at the PH Maldives without using any points. That lowers the “cost” substantially for anyone considering the PH (using points or cash) or wanting a reduced cost for a stay in the Maldives.

  7. I would definitely consider PH for the remoteness…it’s the closest to the Equator. No seaplane ride, but the obligatory speedboat included.

    Having stayed at Conrad, I highly recommend it…OW is nice to do once but beach villas are bigger and nicer. The seaplane is fun.

    Having also stayed at Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma, I recommend that also. Speedboat ride.

  8. Who did you use to book Gili Lankanfushi?

    One other point about the Park Hyatt is that the snorkling and diving will be among the very best in the Maldives, if that’s important to you.

    One of my four Maldives trips I did in May, which is very much shoulder season and the weather really did not cooperate. I go in high season to the Park Hyatt exclusively otherwise, where the cost differentials are much more meaningful.

    I think some folks will prefer the Park Villa with Pool, which DIamonds do get upgraded to space available, and that further changes the cost calculation (no buy up from base villa).

  9. @ Gary, I followed Wendy Perrin’s (great) advice and used Lindsey Wallace to book Gili. You have a very good point about the snorkeling and diving. In fact, it’s one of the key differences Lindsey pointed out when I got in touch with him.

  10. @ Michael – did you actually read the State Department’s advisory? From the most recent November 4 update….”The Maldivian Government stated there will be no restrictions on tourist movements. The airport in Malé and tourist resorts are not expected to be impacted.”

  11. @Bill – All good points. The heat for the OW villa is definitely something I considered. Thankfully, I don’t see it being an issue in the reviews of Gili but it’s consistently mentioned on the PH reviews for people who stayed OW. And I would have considered using the Hyatt Visa nights but my wife and I are both using them for another stay this year where it would be more cost effective.

  12. No, it’s not — and neither is the Conrad MLE. Both properties openly treat redemption guests as second class, and there are many better properties available in the Maldives for $400-500/nt. Save the points for Europe/Asia and pay cash in the Maldives.

  13. When I make a points vs. cash booking decision, I look at what it would cost me to replenish those points (manufacture spend them) vs. the cash cost. I also wouldn’t upgrade to OTW, but I would agree if you want/need that, I think you should at that point look into other options because the upgrade cost is crazy.

    While you certainly can eat for less if you were budget minded, $130-$160 is probably what we would end up paying because we wouldn’t want to limit ourselves too much.

    I would calc my cost at something more like ~$136/night points, $200/night transfer, $260/night food. So we are ~$600/night which certainly still keeps Gili in contention. However, for me, not all my points would be from MS (we would each get the Hyatt card to get 4 of the 5-6 nights I would spend there) plus, by all accounts, the Hyatt has a great reef and we like to snorkel, and that would probably put the Hyatt over the edge for me.

  14. @ABC – Here is what Lindsey Wallace from Linara Travel (the agent we used to book Gili) advised for seasonal rates:

    Rates are cheapest from about mid-May to mid-July and then all of September. These months offer the best rates and offers.

    Europeans tend to go on holiday more in August and thus rates go up in August.

    Rates are also higher October through April (rates vary during these months but all are various degrees of high season or peak season which is even more expensive).

  15. I have almost the same exact itinerary next summer and you just threw a monkey wrench into my plans to stay at the Park Hyatt. Was the rate you got refundable?

  16. I did read it and “not expected” is not an all-clear.

    I think the unruly nature of a country that most people (including yourself, Mike) could not name the president, the issues creating tension or where the nearest embassy is located would give one pause right now.

    I certainly hope I’m wrong and you enjoy your vacation.

  17. @John – We had to put down a $500 deposit which is nonrefundable. The balance is due a couple of months before the trip.

  18. @James K – thanks

    @Helixcardinal – thanks for sharing. I saw some new parts of the island on your tour that I had not seen in other reviews.

  19. Mike, I’m planning a similar trip to the Maldives next June as well! I agree that the Park Hyatt seems cost-prohibitive. I was thinking about the Sheraton, especially if we get the business SPG card. I don’t think I can justify/stomach the cost of the OTW bungalows, however. I’ve also been looking at some other properties that have full board options and less-pricey island transfers!

  20. I’ve been to the Maldives 5 times in 2 years. Most recently I stayed at the Sheraton Full Moon Resort, in a water bungalow. I got a BRG on the base room down to $235 and used suite upgrades which no longer upgrade into the water bungalow. I was quoted $250 extra per night but ended up paying $100 per night extra.
    The experience of the Maldives , at least for me, depends on whether there is a breeze, At the Hyatt last year there was none. It was stifling. I left early..
    A few weeks ago there was a nice breeze, and only one day was fully rained out despite the forecast.

    One big difference is the Sheraton now has a Sheraton Club , which is an air-conditioned place to eat and lounge , and has free booze and food from 5-7 pm. That was worth a lot to me. I like eating inside when it’s really hot.
    All of the Hyatt’s restaurants are outdoors.
    Sheraton is near the airport , so you def are not secluded. It didn;t make a difference to me.

  21. @Greg N — and since when has a government been truthful? Malé depends on tourism, and they’ll lie to their teeth to keep on getting their revenues. Egyptians have been saying similar things about safety at Sharm el-Sheikh.

    The truth is that the Maldivian government is under attack: it has declared a state of emergency and has curtailed constitutional rights. The current President survived a bomb blast in September, a former President has been arrested, and just 6 days ago the Vice President has been impeached. Periodic violent demonstrations and arrests are the norm.

    There’s no better way to hurt a government than cut off its main source of income, in this case, tourism, and a big spectacular act would do this (think Sharm). I don’t want to be anywhere near this; the world is big and there are plenty of places to go.

    YMMV. But I hear prices in Sharm are pretty good as well.

  22. @Mike – We’re headed to the Hyatt Ziva in Cabo. Because my oldest is 4, they charge another 10K points for a total of 30K points per night. Strictly from a points perspective it saves us 20K points to use the four free nights here instead of the Maldives.

  23. You guys are crazy. Do you know what’s going on in the Maldives? Do you know about all the people leaving there to join Isis ? The state of emergency and attempted murder of the President, sounds like a vacation dream if you are a journalist maybe. Family, really?

  24. For everyone concerned about news from the Maldives, I’d point out plenty of other countries warn their citizens about gun violence in the US. Ferguson, MO and Baltimore, MD were in states of emergency recently. 3 young girls from Denver (among others) decided to go join ISIS. A knife wielding lunatic made it deep into the White House….

    The point is, you can find scary news anywhere, if you look. Everyone has their own risk threshold when it comes to travel. The great thing about this hobby is if you’re not comfortable going one place, your miles and points can take you somewhere else. So far, I feel comfortable the trip we have booked.

    On a lighter note, there are some pretty amusing warnings from other countries about travel in the US: http://mentalfloss.com/article/68276/25-unusual-foreign-travel-warnings-visiting-us

  25. Another underrated option is that you are allowed to stay on local islands at guesthouses now. You can take public transit – or a reasonably priced private speedboat – somewhere like Maafushi or Guliadhoo, stay in a perfectly nice, air conditioned room for $50 a night, and spend the day snorkeling and diving. A great dive shop of Maafushi was selling packages where dives wound up about $50 a pop. Also very easy to organize a boat to drop you on a deserted island (along with any of the other activities), and good food can be bought at less than US prices on the local islands. I thought it was great, and aside from perhaps a honeymoon, the value was just so much better.

    Also, Maldives should totally be combined with Sri Lanka on any miles-based trip, since you can fly CMB-MLE-DXB->US for 90000 in Emirates F including the MLE stopover.

    The other option beyond the Maldives in the region is the incredible island of La Digue in the Seychelles. It’s not an isolated island, but the beaches on the east side of island are completely empty. There is a stronger current than in the Maldives, but I find the scenery – lush mountains – prettier than just being on an atoll.

  26. The Park Hyatt is a good resort, but it is way too expensive for what it is (and to exhausting to get there with the tiring domestic plane and boat transfers). Gili Lankanfushi is better indeed. You will love it. It’s not my favorite in the Maldives though since its proximity to the international airport and to the Paradise Island next door distract from a serene athmosphere, and the house reef is not good. If I may also give you a tip: request a villa on jetty 3. The villas are located on 3 jetties. Jetty number 3 is small and on the west side while jetties 1 and 2 are much larger and sit in the eastern side of the lagoon which has very shallow water. I personally prefer the villas on jetty number 3 as these villas will give you sunshine on the terrace all day long (including around sunset) and because on jetty 1 and 2, the coral is exposed at low tide which is not a pretty sight since the water will then lose its deep blue color. On the other hand, jetty 3 on the west side sees a lot of boat traffic passing during the day, while jetty 1 and 2 on the east side have no boat traffic. Enjoy!

  27. Btw, Gili Lankanfushi used to be owned by Soneva, when it was “Soneva Gili”. Soneva still own the single best resort in the Maldives: Soneva Fushi (feel free to contact me if you want a free upgrade there at the time of booking). Soneva Fushi has what Gili Lankanfushi is somewhat missing: a stunning island scenery, excellent house reef and splendid isolation. On the other hand, Soneva Fushi has only land villas while Gili Lankanfushi only has overwater bungalows. When both resorts were managed by Soneva, most tourists combined Gili and Fushi to get the best of both worlds and they still do. The Soneva group is currently also developing what will become known without any doubt as thé ultimate luxury resort in the Maldives: Soneva Jani (google it to see some photos of the development: looks stunning). I cannot wait to try out it once it is finished. My top 5 resort in the Maldives are:
    1. Soneva Fushi
    2. One&Only Reethi Rah (still has the best overwater villas in the Maldives)
    3. Maalifushi by COMO
    4. Anantara Kihavah (has an underwater restaurant)
    5. Cheval Blanc Randheli

    Let’s hope the political unrest in the Maldives (which has been going on for years) will not ruin the country.

  28. We are heading to the Maldives in March, staying at the Sheraton for five nights since we have platinum status and four nights at the Park Hyatt using our four nights from the Hyatt Visa. On the issue of dangerous places to visit, we are currently in Cairo and I am looking out at the pyramids as I type this comment. We were in Luxor before we came to Cairo, and we have felt completely safe in these cities. Sadly, we saw less than 200 people at the pyramids yesterday, when they used to have one million visitors per month before the first revolution. Even the hawkers at the pyramids left us alone for the most part, seemingly accepting the fact that no one was going to buy their made in China goods. (The vendors at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul where we were right before we came to Egypt were much more aggressive.) We took a camel ride at the pyramixs around 2:00 p.m., and our “driver” said we were his first clients of the day. I feel bad for the people whose lives depend on tourism, and the plane crash will only make the situation worse.

    As for Sharm el Sheik, which I never even heard of until last week, our driver to our hotel in Giza (Le meridian), told us that the biggest clients were female Russians (twenties to seventies) who go there to meet Egyptian men, who treat them much better than Russian men. Many Russian girls marry the pool attendants they date while on holiday. He said no money is exchanged, except for maybe the seventy year olds. The Egyptian men are eager to meet Russian women, because Egyptian women are bossy, and of course, Russian women’s look are exotic to them. A one week package including flights and hotel costs about $467 dollars, so multiple trips within the same year are common. We have heard over and over how nice the resort’s are and how cheap everything is. Seems like Sharm el Sheik Should be really safe now that one flight has already been subject to a bombing? What terrorist group aims for the same target immediately after an incident?

    Anyway, after this experience in Egypt, I’m less inclined to be fearful of visiting a place simply because there has been unrest at some time in some place in the country. I filled out a STEP notification for this trip, but every thing has been quiet.

    Sorry for any typos in this post. Auto correct can be a pain.

  29. @Michael I flew out of the Maldives about 24 hours ago. In the 4.5 nights we spent there we were in two different resorts, Sheraton and W. The city of Male is visible from the airport but on a different island. The logistics of tourists is such that you have very little chance of every coming into contact with anything other than your tourist bubble experience. We can debate whether it is or is not ok for us to live in this bubble. But as far as the safety of tourists is concerned, at the moment there seems to be nothing to worry about.

  30. Mike,

    I have to compliment you for your decision making process. So, many of the bloggers make every decision based purely on miles and points, and not dollars and cents. When one travels for business, with your employer paying, one earns multiples more of everything. When you are earning on your own dime, it is much more decisive process.

    With everything that is posted about Park Hyatt Maldives, it seems to me, that it is not worth the expense. There are so many specials posted on TravelZoo for Maldives resorts. Why spend so many points for the Hyatt, when there are nicer properties, that can be purchased for what the upgrade to the water villa cost. I’m not even counting the cost of the points that you need to have.

    I would love to see the Maldives before it is underwater due to climate change. Or the coral bleaching is more extensive. But, there are so many negatives, I really don’t want to spend my precious vacation time and risk disappointment.

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